Hissi, Come Blow Your Horn!: Part Two
After a hearty breakfast and a long farewell, Satch was
up in the sky, leaving the swamp that had served as his home for so many years.
He waved to his father as the swamp got smaller and smaller from view. Satch packed
light, only taking his trumpet case, a few pieces of clothing, a bag of Neopoints,
and of course, his fedora. He had never gone very far on his own before, but knew
that he was ready to find his dream.
Satch decided the first place to look would
be the marketplace, a few miles outside Neopia Central. The marketplace was
always bustling with Neopets. Surely, they'd like to hear a good horn player.
He landed at the gates, thinking it'd be better if he went on foot (or tail)
from that point. The marketplace was especially busy today. Neopets ran to and
fro, taking every opportunity to spend their hard-earned Neopoints. Smells from
different food stands and restaurants filled the air, causing his stomach to
rumble. It had been a long flight and he was starving. He saw a small diner
and decided to stop in for a quick bite before looking for a venue to play in.
When Satch entered the diner, the room suddenly
grew quiet as customers stopped eating to look at him. He waved shyly, but was
greeted with odd looks. Apparently, Hissies weren't that common among Neopets
yet. Satch ignored the stares and went up to counter. "I'll, uh, have a burger
please? Everything on it."
The large Skeith shrugged and prepared Satch's
order. The burger smelled delicious to Satch, its moist juices and fresh veggies
tempting his taste buds. Taking the burger in his wings, he unhinged his jaw
and took the burger in one large bite, swallowing it whole.
Groans of disgust filled the diner.
"Eww! Did you see that?"
"Gross! Why doesn't he chew his food?"
"There goes my appetite."
Satch looked around the room in confusion as
the burger, now just a large lump in his chest, still worked its way down. The
Skeith cook gave him an icy glare. "What do you think you're doing, huh? Trying
to gross out my customers?"
Satch held up his wings in defense. "What? It's
how Hissies eat. It's natural."
"Yeah?" snapped the Skeith, "Well, go be 'natural'
somewhere else! I got a business to run."
The vendors agreed, all voicing their complaints.
Embarrassed, Satch took his things and left the diner. As the customers went
back to their meals, there was one who had been paying very close attention
to Satch. The blue Yurble paid for his meal, then went to find the red Hissi
and his trumpet-shaped case.
* * *
The day had not gone well for poor Satch. Every
time he tried to play for someone, they were either too busy or thought he was
dangerous and sent him away. So this is what it's really like being a Hissi,
he thought sadly. Back in the swamp, he was an equal. His neighbors all thought
his trumpet playing was the best and never thought twice about who or what he
was. All the marketplace had was greed and prejudice.
"This was a bad idea," Satch said softly to
himself. He had found a small fountain to rest at. He looked at his reflection
in the water as the ripples distorted his face. Just a Hissi. A strange, venomous-looking
Hissi. "Maybe Miss Malba was right. Maybe the music world doesn't want Hissies.
Nobody around here does."
At times like this, Satch knew there was only
one way to express his feelings: through his trumpet. He ran his wing over the
silvery curves. His trumpet would never judge him. It didn't care how strange
looking he was. All that instrument cared about was making beautiful music and
it couldn't do that without Satch. Satch put the trumpet to his lips and played
a few miscellaneous notes... that were followed by an echo. Somewhere in the
distance, another horn repeated what Satch played, but added a few extra notes.
Satch played a few more notes and, once again,
the notes were repeated. It wasn't another trumpet. It sounded different. Satch
continued playing, straining his ears whenever the notes were repeated. He looked
all around until his eyes fell upon a large blue Yurble playing a tenor saxophone.
He was dressed in a white button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a black
tie with matching fedora. The Yurble looked old enough to be his father. He
played the sax beautifully, every note shining with jazz.
The Yurble stopped to look at the awestruck
Hissi. "Don't stop now," he said with a wink. "We were just getting good!"
The old flame rekindled in Satch as he continued
playing. The Yurble followed suit. A few Neopets stopped to watch the odd couple
as they jammed on their instruments, each trying to outdo the other. Satch found
himself swaying side to side, letting the music move him like a puppet. The
Yurble challenged him with various scales and slides, but Satch never missed
a note. When they both hit that last high C, the small crowd that had formed
around them cheered. Some were so impressed that they tossed a few Neopoints
in their direction. Satch and the Yurble smiled as they removed their fedoras
to collect the coins.
When the crowd dispersed, the Yurble patted
Satch heartily on the back. "Man oh man! You've got some crazy skills! What's
"Satch," he said, holding out his wing which
the Yurble shook fondly.
"Pleasure to meet you, Satch," said the Yurble.
"My friends call me Duke."
"Hey Duke!" Satch grinned. It felt so nice to
finally meet a friendly face. And a fellow jazz fan, at that. His eyes once
again fell on his saxophone. "You were awesome, by the way! Where'd you learn
to play like that?"
"Probably the same way you did. I fell in love
and never stopped till I got it right." Duke's face suddenly dropped. "I saw
what happened in the diner. That Skeith had no right to treat you that way."
Satch flicked his tail. "Yeah, well... I guess
I was kind of gross. I mean, how many Neopets swallow their food without chewing?"
"Gross? Try watching a Skeith at an all-you-can-eat
buffet. Now that's gross! Then again..." Duke chuckled as he patted his large
belly. "We Yurbles are famous for packing it in, too. Seriously, though. I know
how hard it is being the new pet in town. Just give people some time and they'll
get used to you. So, you from around here?"
Satch shook his head. "No. I'm from the swamp.
I came here to... nah, you'll think it's silly."
"Well... I want to be a trumpet player and be
famous like Jazzmosis. You know, play some venues, start a record deal, that
kind of thing. Trouble is..." Satch looked down at his scaly body sadly.
"Hissies can't be musicians."
Duke's eyes widened. "Says who?"
"Well, I must've been left out of the loop 'cause
I've never heard anyone say that. It doesn't matter what you are. If you can
play it, you can be it." Duke's eyes twinkled as he threw his arm around Satch's
shoulders. "In fact, I know some folks who'd be very interested in meeting you,
Satch. Come on, it's almost practice time anyway."
* * *
"Where the heck is he?" asked Goldie, a yellow
Pteri, as she paced the stage impatiently. "He's ten minutes late."
"You know Duke," replied Bebop, the brown Mynci.
"It's been an hour and a half since he's eaten, so he probably stopped for a
snack." Bebop twirled the drumsticks in his paws as he tapped cymbal lightly.
Meanwhile, an easy melody filled the air as
Billie continued her solo piece on the keyboards. The silver Cybunny adjusted
her beret and looked at her watch. "He's not that late, Goldie. He'll be here
"He better," fumed Goldie. "You can't have a
jazz band without a sax player."
Bebop looked around the empty cafe. "Or a bass
player. Anyone seen Melvin?"
As if on cue, a rather anxious speckled Techo
emerged from the bathroom. He was nervously rubbing his hands together as he
searched the floor. "I can't believe I lost it! Where is it?"
Bebop chuckled. "Lost the Snowbunny foot again,
didn't you, Mel?"
"Why didn't I get a bigger chain for that thing?"
Melvin muttered to himself. "I can't play without my foot!"
"What's wrong with the two you have?"
Melvin gave his Mynci cousin an annoyed look.
"That's not funny, Bebop! You better not have taken it again."
"Is that it on the bar?" asked Billie.
Sure enough, sitting on the bar was a pink fake
Snowbunny's foot with a small keychain attached to it. Melvin hurried to retrieve
it, kissing it fervently. Tucking it in his shirt pocket, he headed for the
stage and started to tune his stand-up bass.
Bebop shook his head as he peered at his cousin
over his sunglasses. "What is it with you and superstition? I swear, I've seen
Kadoaties in the dark calmer than you."
"Well, I'm sorry that I can't laugh karma in
the face like you, Bebop," snapped Melvin, "but if we're ever going to win the
contest, we're going to need all the luck we can get!"
"I think I just heard a hundred Snowbunnies
run for cover."
Goldie rolled her eyes as the two cousins started
bickering. This wasn't the first time this had happened. Melvin and Bebop were
more like brothers the way they fought, but in some odd way they enjoyed it.
Also, it was amusing for others to watch. Goldie, however, wasn't in the mood
for another feud.
"Will you two knock it off?" snapped Goldie.
"Look, let's just go through the exercises until Duke gets here."
"You can stop the exercises because the Duke
is in the house!"
The band members turned to see their saxophone
player beaming brightly at them. Goldie fluttered over to give him a piece of
her mind. Before she could get one word in, Duke gave her a big hug. "Hello,
Goldilocks! Sorry for being late."
"Don't sweet talk me, Prince Charming! What
took you so long?" She noted a brown stain on his shirt. "Is that gravy? I knew
it! You've been sneaking between-meal snacks again, haven't you? You keep stuffing
yourself and you'll end up a plush toy."
Duke's smile grew wider. "Relax, Goldie! I admit
I stopped by for a little snack, but I think I found the answers to our problems."
"You got us a catering gig?" cracked Bebop.
"Better! You know how the band was missing something?
Well, I found the missing link! Come on in, Satch! Meet the band!"
The red Hissi slid into the room shyly, carrying
his trumpet case behind him. He looked around the dimly lit cafe, then waved
at the Pteri standing before him.
"Goldie, this is Satch," said Duke, throwing
his arm around Satch's shoulders. "He can play a mean trumpet, can't you, Satch?"
Satch swallowed. "Um, I am a little good, I
guess." He spared another glance at Goldie. She was tall for a Pteri, about
the same height as Duke. She had her feathers styled on top of her head and
she wore a shiny red dress. Although she was very lovely, Satch could tell that
she had a temper. Still, Goldie smiled at Satch and shook his wing.
"It's very nice to meet you, Satch," she said
"This is Goldie, our lead singer. She's got
the prettiest voice from here to Kreludor." Duke led him to the stage where
the other band members were coming forward to meet him. "This is Bebop, our
drummer, and Melvin, the bass player."
When Satch went to shake his paw, Bebop slapped
his palm instead in a friendly way. "How're you doing, Scales?"
Melvin smacked Bebop upside his head. "Bebop!
Don't call him that!"
"What? Why not?"
"Because it's offensive! How would you like
it if someone called you Fur? I apologize about my cousin, Satch. He doesn't
think before he speaks. I think his brain bypasses his mouth."
"Hey! Watch it, Karma-elion!"
"No, no, really! It's ok!" said Satch. "I don't
mind. You can call me Scales, if you want."
Duke just chuckled. "Don't mind them. They do
this all the time. You just got to get used to it. And last, but not least,
is Billie, our lovely little lady at the keyboards."
Satch felt his heart leap in his throat. He'd
never seen such a beautiful Cybunny before. The way her fur twinkled in the
light and her ears fell gave her a charming look. According to her features,
she looked around Satch's age and the youngest in the band.
Billie smiled as she took Satch's wing. "Hi
Satch. Nice to meet you."
Satch shakily shook her wing. "Too nice to you
meet," he slurred. "I-I mean, nice to meet you, too."
Billie giggled. "I like your hat."
Satch blushed and quickly removed it. "Thanks.
My dad got it for me at a Jazzmosis concert."
Billie's eyes lit up. "You like Jazzmosis? Me
too! They're like my favorite band."
"Really? Have you heard their latest album?"
"Cool in the Key of G? Got it on the first day
it came out."
Just as they were getting better acquainted,
Goldie stepped in between them. "Look, I hate to interrupt this sweet little
scene and I promise I'll let you finish later, but Duke tells us you're a trumpet
Satch's goal jolted back into his mind. His
conversation with Billie would have to wait. "Oh, yes! Yes, I am. You see, it's
been my dream to be a famous trumpet player and I've been looking for a chance
to perform professionally."
"Well, we've been a band for a few months now,"
said Bebop. "We're called the Jazz Tones and we're also trying to get on the
road stardom. So far, we've just been doing small venues and gigs, but we're
well known locally."
"We're pretty popular," added Duke, "but we
just need a little more zing to give us the fling. So, go on, Satch! Show the
Tones what you got."
The old fear crept back into Satch's mind. As
he prepared himself, thoughts of the Malba audition flashed in his mind. The
humiliation, the disappointment. Don't think of that now, he thought
to himself. You can do this. And so Satch started to play reluctantly
at first. Just a few scales and rolls to help him warm up. The fears still lingered
in his mind and he stuttered a bit on the notes.
The Jazz Tones exchanged looks as they observed
the trumpet player. Bebop was the first to react. He went to his drums and started
to play light beat in the background. It did the trick. When Satch heard the
cymbals clash, he started to play more confidently. Soon Melvin followed on
bass, then Billie on keyboards. With his fellow musicians, Satch didn't hold
back any more. He let that trumpet blow with all his heart. When he finished,
Billie, Bebop, and Melvin crowded around Satch and complimented his playing.
"Dude, that was awesome!" said Bebop. "Elephantes
don't play that good."
"Oh, Goldie, we've got to let him join!" said
Billie. "He's perfect!" Satch blushed bright red (redder than he normally was).
"Yeah," added Melvin. "We'll win the contest
for sure with Satch!"
"Contest? What contest?" asked Satch.
"For the Neopian annual Battle of the Bands
competition, of course!" Bebop pulled a flyer from his back pocket and showed
Satch. "They hold it at the Catacombs every year. First prize is 10,000 Neopoints
plus a recording contract with Neotunes studios."
"We've been practicing for months," said Duke.
"But we just didn't sound quite good enough... until you came along, that is."
Satch bit the inside of his cheek. Neotunes
studios? The same studio that Miss Malba worked for? If she didn't like Hissies,
why would Neotunes be any different? Then again, maybe with a band to back him
up, he'd have his second chance. He decided to keep the failed audition to himself... for
Duke smiled at Goldie. "So, what do you think?
Is Satch in or what?"
Goldie was quiet as she studied Satch. "You've
ever been in a band, Satch?" she asked.
Satch shook his head. "No ma'am. Not a jazz
"Well... there's a first time for everything,
isn't there? Welcome to the Tones, Satch!"
To be continued...